A memoir of a year spent in the Old City in the heart of today’s Jerusalem.
Tuttle-Singer, the new media editor at the Times of Israel, was enraptured with life in Jerusalem ever since her first youthful visit, and she remains in love with the Holy Land as a grown-up Israeli now living again in the ancient city. During the year she chronicles, the author lived part of each week on a communal moshav with her two young children. The rest of the week, she lived in the various quarters of the Old City, where the disparate Christian, Muslim, and Jewish cultures are encapsulated in one small spot on a map. “On the days I’m not with my kids,” she writes, “I’m in the Old City, because it’s one thing to understand this place through the thoroughfares, and it’s quite another to go behind the walls and see what’s hidden, what doesn’t meet the eye.” Tuttle-Singer enjoyed views from the city’s rooftops, watched Arab elders play backgammon, and danced with bar mitzvah celebrants. She delighted in such things as the “amazing” chicken-and-rice dish called maklouba and the wide variety of odors wafting through the city. She was friendly with merchants and became a confidante of many candid residents of the walled district. It wasn’t all charm and understanding, though. There were the nervous young soldiers carrying rifles and demonstrators throwing rocks. When she was 18, the author was stoned by Palestinian kids. During her youth in Los Angeles, she lost her mother, who now haunts her daughter’s impassioned memoir, which tends toward the operatic. Certain descriptive passages of the sounds and sights may be a bit rich for some readers, but Tuttle-Singer’s approachable personality will prevail for a good many more.
A quirky, novelistic tour as much about the author as Jerusalem.